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Newsletter - August 1999
Welcome to the second issue of the quarterly newsletter of the National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism. This issue has a European focus and outlines developments in Europe as well as the forthcoming 'True Colours' event, the Committee's submission on the Equal Status Bill, 1999 and the progress of our small grant fund.
A Two Week Programme of Events Focussing on the Inclusion of Refugees and Asylum Seekers, People of Colour and Ethnic Minorities, including Travellers into Irish Society, from November 8th -22nd 1999
From November 8th- 22nd 1999 it is planned to organise two weeks of events to focus on how Irish Society can be more inclusive of ethnic minorities, including Travellers, refugees and asylum seekers, and people of colour.
Aims of the Initiative
Ireland has always been a culturally diverse society but it is only in recent years that this diversity is beginning to be recognised. Despite some important progress towards the greater inclusion of ethnic minorities, including Travellers and refugees and asylum seekers, events have shown that there needs to be much greater efforts to promote a more intercultural society and to tackle issues such as racism and discrimination. The aims of the two weeks are to:
The two-week programme of events will take place at national, regional and local levels. Groups from around the country are encouraged to organise events that will form part of the programme.
It is envisaged that there will be a wide range of different types of events. Events already being developed are:
Other ideas could include:
In line with the overall ethos and approach of the two weeks, the organisers are encouraging the participation of community groups; schools and youth organisations; churches and religious groups; trade unions; employers; government departments and agencies to become involved in the initiative and to both organise and participate in events linked to the aims of the initiative.
There are a range of organisations at national level which are involved in a steering group for the event, including:
How Your Event Can Become Part of the Programme
The sole criteria for being accepted as part of the programme is that it is consistent with the aims and approach which have been set out in this section. Further information and an application form to participate in the programme are available here and from the NCCRI office. If you are interested in organising an event, simply fill out the form explaining what type of event it is, when it is happening etc.
There will be a limited amount of funding available through a small grant fund of between £250-£800 per grant, which is available to non-statutory groups only. Closing date for applications for this funding is September 15th 1999. Application forms for funding and further information are available from the NCCRI, 26 Harcourt St., Dublin 2 and a form is also available for printout from the website [Click Here].
Tel (01) 4785777
Please Note these Deadlines
2. Guarding Standards - Shaping the Agenda
For the first time three major bodies specialising in refugee protection, anti-discrimination law and the development of related European policy have joined forces to create a comprehensive response to the future direction of the Amsterdam Treaty. This response, published in the recent report "Guarding Standards - Shaping the Agenda", was developed by the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) and the Migration Policy Group (MPG).
The report is "an alternative action plan ... on how best to implement the provisions of the Treaty of Amsterdam on policies related to migration, asylum, integration and anti-discrimination."
There is a clear acknowledgement that the policy requirements of migrants and refugees can differ dramatically but the authors believe "solutions to one problem need not be developed to the detriment of another. A comprehensive approach is needed."
The report provides a detailed breakdown and analysis of those articles and sections of the Treaty of Amsterdam which have particular regard to refugees and migrants. Organised under the following three subheadings it analyses the potential impact of these articles and provides detailed policy recommendations for their future implementation:
The report outlines principles, policy recommendations and specific measures or actions which need to be taken to ensure that the Treaty of Amsterdam is fully implemented while also fulfilling its obligations under human rights and refugee law. With regard to this the report explains that the "implementation of the asylum and immigration agenda of the Treaty as a whole should be in full conformity with, inter alia:
The report recognises the European Union's increased focus on the management of refugee and migratory movements; integration policies; and foreign aspects of international migratory and refugee movements. However, the understanding and policy development of these areas of work have changed considerably since they were first outlined. The effective management of refugee movement is welcomed but as the report outlines, in an EU context, this has come to mean "restricting immigration, and most of the measures taken aim only to limit the number of immigrants and refugees, facilitate the return of rejected asylum seekers, strengthen control mechanisms and assist neighbouring states with putting similar controls in place."
3. European Funding - Call for Proposals
The European Commission DGV have announced a call for proposals for preparatory measures aimed at combating and preventing discrimination (VP/1999/016) July 1999. Discrimination is defined as 'sex, racial or ethnic origin, religions or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation, with proposals open to public and non public bodies. Proposals will only accepted from proposals which outline partners from at least 4 different States. The Guidelines and Application Form are available on the following website: http://europa.eu.int/comm/dg05/ The form may be obtained in Word format by sending an e-mail request to firstname.lastname@example.org
A hard copy of the guidelines can be obtained from the NCCRI phone 01 4785777. Closing date for completed applications (to be sent to the European Commission) is 15th September 1999.
Anti racism Training with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs
The NCCRI has completed a series of anti-racism training modules with the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs. The training module on anti racism formed part of the Department's in-service training course for staff trainers from social welfare offices throughout the country. The department of Social affairs had undertaken a commitment to provide such training as part of their Strategic and Customer Action Plan and are among the first government departments to do so. The NCCRI has been encouraging Government Departments to undertake such training under the Strategic Management Initiative.
5. Equal Status Bill Published
The Equal Status Bill, 1999, which replaced the 1997 Bill that was found to be unconstitutional, is currently progressing through the Oireachtas. The NCCRI has recently published a submission on the new Bill, the key elements of which are summarised in this article.
The NCCRI warmly welcomes the Equal Status Bill and recognises it to be an important milestone in the development of effective equality legislation in Ireland. The Bill compliments the already enacted Employment Equality Act, 1998 and the recently established Equality Authority (designate). It seeks to outlaw discrimination in the provision of goods and services on a range of grounds including "race", colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin and membership of the Travelling community. This article focuses on how the Bill differs from the 1997 Bill and overall how the Bill might be strengthened before it becomes legislation.
Scope of the Bill
The Equal Status Bill is designed to prevent discrimination in the provision of services, yet the definition of service in section 2 of the Bill and section 5 currently excludes the provision of services by public bodies. Consequently policing activities, immigration control, operation of prisons and implementation of tax, social welfare and planning codes are not governed by the Bill. Furthermore, there is no duty imposed on public bodies to work for the elimination of discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity such as exists in comparable UK legislation.
Contrary to the Bill presented in 1997, clubs, organisations and associations no longer appear to be subject to the provisions on sexual and other harassment. The Bill addresses discrimination in relation to the provision of accommodation but not in the deprivation of accommodation.
Meaning of Discrimination
Discrimination can be direct or indirect. In terms of combating direct discrimination the Bill fails to prohibit segregation per se, which is contrary to the approach taken in other jurisdictions, including Britain and Northern Ireland where segregation is prohibited.
In terms of legislating against indirect discrimination, a complaint of indirect discrimination could be defeated if it is argued that the conditions of the case were reasonable. It would be preferable if it had to be shown that the condition was necessary in all the circumstances of the case.
The provisions on positive action could be strengthened to permit positive action in support of an interest, as opposed to a need, of ethnic groups. Furthermore, as it currently stands the new Bill does not allow Travellers to register a club limited to Travellers and this should be changed.
This important section concerns itself with the defence allowed arising out of a claim of discrimination. The submission contends that the definition of what is permissible in defence is too broad. The problem here is that the defence is not limited to cases in which the person discriminated against is responsible for the criminal or disorderly conduct or behaviour. So, for example, if a publican could show that the presence of a Traveller in the pub would lead to disorderly conduct by other customers, that publican could refuse to serve the Traveller. The Equal Status Bill should not provide protections to discriminatory behaviour and should be amended to reflect the concerns raised above.
Among a number of concerns in this section is the fact that there is no obligation on the Equality Authority to conduct an investigation where evidence exists to the Commission of an unlawful act under the legislation. On the other hand, the Authority does not need any evidence of discrimination before commencing an investigation. Organisations can no longer bring complaints of discrimination on their own behalf and it is not clear whether they may lodge complaints of discrimination on behalf of victims.
Remedies and Penalties
Compensation for the effects of discrimination payable under the legislation is limited to £5,000 whereas the Employment Equality Act 1998 is limited to £10,000. The sanctions applicable to clubs found guilty of discrimination have been reduced when compared to those proposed under the 1997 bill.
Powers of the Equality Authority
The Authority is not empowered to finance or support the activities of any group seeking to promote anti-racism or integration policies where those activities do not entail either research or the dissemination of information.
The power of the Authority to refer matters to the Director is slightly narrower than that provided for under the 1997 Bill inasmuch as it no longer applies to situations where someone is procuring or attempting to procure another to engage in prohibited conduct.
A full and detailed copy of the research submission containing all concerns and proposed amendments is available by sending a stamped addressed envelope to the NCCRI office.
6. Equality Authority to Commence in September
The Equality Authority will officially commence work in September and will be based in Clonmel Place, Harcourt Street. The role of the Authority is to work towards the elimination of discrimination and to promote equality on nine specific grounds. The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform has appointed an Equality Authority designate to prepare for the implementation day and to draw up a three year strategic plan. The Chairperson is Kate Hayes and the newly appointed chief executive officer is Niall Crowley. One of the members of the authority designate is Thomas McCann. Both Niall and Thomas have been members of the NCCRI since it was established in July 1998 and were formerly involved in the National Co-ordinating Committee for European Year Against Racism. The Equality Authority will soon be complimented by the establishment of an Office of Director of Equality Investigations, which will provide the mechanism for the redress for equality cases arising under both the Employment Equality and Equal Status legislation.
7. Human Rights Forum
The second annual NGO Forum on Human Rights was organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin Castle on 26th of June 1999 and focussed on issues such as the Human Rights Commissions in Ireland, North and South; women's human rights, a Bill of Rights for the European Union and challenging Irish racism, which was chaired by the chairperson of the NCCRI, Anastasia Crickley. Minister of State Chris Flood TD stated in the opening address that it was essential that the government move rapidly to ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination and the UN Convention against torture. The Minister also reiterated the government's commitment to developing a Human Rights Commission which 'will be a model of its kind in Europe' and that we should set, not follow, standards for international practice the field.
8. Staff Appointments
The NCCRI has appointed Philip Watt as its Director, following an open recruitment process. He was acting co-ordinator of the NCCRI and formerly the co-ordinator of European Year Against Racism. In previous positions he worked to develop community development and anti racism initiatives in Tallaght and Belfast and was a member of the Board of ADM and the Tallaght Partnership.
Following an open recruitment process, The NCCRI has appointed Catherine Lynch as its Administrative Assistant. Catherine was previously employed in the asylum division of the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform and has recently completed a Masters in Equality Studies from University College, Dublin.
The NCCRI have allocated £6,500 in small grants to nineteen projects in the first round of funding. The second closing date for applications is September 15th 1999 and the NCCRI are encouraging groups which wish to avail of this funding to organise the events to coincide with the 'True Colours' initiative which will take place in November 1999 (see article in this newsletter)
Application Forms for the Small Grant Fund can be printed from the website [Click Here] and they are also available from Catherine Lynch, NCCRI, 26 Harcourt Street, Dublin 2.
10. "Racism in Ireland: North and South"
The European Parliament have published the report of the conference on "Racism in Ireland: North and South" held in October, 1997. This was a joint conference organised by the European Parliament Office in Ireland, European Year Against Racism, the National Union of Journalists and Platform Against Racism. It addressed racism in a European context while looking also at the particular forms of racism in Ireland, north and south. Future strategies for building an anti-racist society and developing the role of the media in this task were identified.
Copies of the report are available from the European Parliament Office, 43 Molesworth St., Dublin 2.
The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism
Address: 26 Harcourt St. Dublin 2